One year after Hyundai partnered with The Walking Dead comic book creator, Robert Kirkman, to create a zombie survival edition of its Elantra coupe, the car manufacturer is asking fans to put their money where their mouths are and design a better zombie survival machine.
That's in part because the original design elicited a strong reaction from fans on social media, who challenged Kirkman's version and its ability to survive a zombie apocalypse.
Therefore, The Walking Dead Chop Shop invites fans to one-up Kirkman's design with a configuration app with custom-designed tools and features -- including razor wire and horde plows -- that Hyundai says are true to the comic book and TV series and are designed for a real zombie apocalypse. In addition, one winning design will be transformed into an actual zombie survival machine that will be unveiled at New York Comic-Con in October.
The Walking Dead Chop Shop first debuted at Comic-Con International, which took place in San Diego July 18 to 21.
The app is available for iPhone and iPad. It will be released for Android phones soon.
Fans start by choosing a Hyundai vehicle - an Elantra, Veloster Turbo or Santa Fe - and then add armor, survival accessories and designs from a range of options, including nearly 300 car parts and custom graphic decals. Users are then able to share their creations, get a survival score, test them out in scenarios inspired by the comic books and enter the contest to see which Kirkman deems best to withstand the zombie apocalypse.
David Matathia, director of marketing communications at Hyundai, says the survival score is based on a "very sophisticated zombie algorithm" that considers the model and its customizations. Users can return to earn additional points by answering trivia questions or posting to the gallery.
What's more, the gallery is searchable by factors like: model, most expensive and highest survivability. Users can like cars and comment on them. In a future release, Matathia says the app will include a competition mode that will allow users to pit cars against each other.
As of Tuesday, nearly 30,000 zombie survival machines had been created.
Hyundai's relationship with AMC's zombie series began as an advertiser when the show was in its second season in 2011. The following season, the brand introduced a vehicle into the show - a kiwi green Hyundai Tucson that became a trusted getaway car and counterpart to the show's heroes, Matathia says.
"As season three ratings climbed, it became a phenomenon that grew bigger than we anticipated," he says. "It was the #1 basic cable show in history, so the challenge became how to extend it beyond the TV screen."
That resulted in the aforementioned zombie survival machine for Comic-Con in 2012, as well as graphic novel tie-ins and a mock car owner manual - the Hyundai Zombie Survival Machine Manual - "to continue to feed the fan base," Matathia says.
"When we started with The Walking Dead, we were looking at Gen Y very specifically," Matathia says. "From a vehicle standpoint, we know Gen Y's love affair with cars is waning and our desire to build a brand impression early is very important. When in market, we want to show we're a brand that gets them, thinks like them and is passionate about the same things."
But Matathia also notes the show's large audience has since eclipsed that original target and "now we're thankful that it's a pop culture staple. Gen Y was our bullseye, but it's grown beyond."
According to the AMC blog, the season three finale of The Walking Dead on March 31 had the show's largest audience ever with 12.4 million viewers.
The Chop Shop initiative was created in partnership with creative agency Innocean USA, as well as Future US, a digital media and content marketing group, and Skybound, Kirkman's imprint at Image Comics.
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Lisa Lacy is senior staff writer at ClickZ. In addition to ClickZ, her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Luxury Spot, LearnVest, MarthaStewart.com, GoodHousekeeping.com, amNewYork, and The Wall Street Journal. She's a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism.
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